I know I’ll get called a candy-ass RINO for pointing out the obvious, but this morning’s revisions to the once-revised Boehner bill gave it life in the House while extinguishing what little chance it had in the Senate. The new requirement to pass the Republican version of the Balanced Budget Amendment for the second tranche of the debt-ceiling increase — not to call a floor vote, but a requirement for passage — amounts to a poison pill that gives Harry Reid all of the excuse he needs to kill this latest version as soon as it gets out of the house.
Bryan Preston notes the change in the bill, but asks a slanted question:
It adds a Balanced Budget Amendment as a prerequisite for passing the next round of debt ceiling increase. As many as 20 Democratic Senators have said in the past that they support a BBA. Was that all talk and posturing to appear moderate, or did they mean it?
The Senate Democrats in question supported the idea of a balanced-budget amendment, not the Republican version that this bill requires, and to pretend otherwise is sophistry. I like the Republican version much better than the concept the Democrats rhetorically supported, of course, because it includes hard caps on spending tied to GDP. It’s certainly worth bringing to the House floor for a vote, if for no other reason than to get Democrats on the record on whether to enforce balance in the budget. It’s not going to get two-thirds in the House, however, let alone this Senate.
By including it as a requirement to trigger the next debt-ceiling increase, it puts us right back in the same position we find ourselves in at the moment. Senate Democrats may have offered general support for the concept of a balanced budget amendment, but they have been specific about rejecting any bill that requires passage of one to get a debt-ceiling hike. All of the Senate Democrats voted to table the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act for that very reason, which already made the GOP’s point. What’s the point of doing it again?
Let’s not forget one important fact on this point: as Speaker, Boehner can call a vote on a BBA pretty much whenever he likes. He has to get 2/3rds majority in order to pass it to the Senate. Since the likelihood of that is zero, why require the Senate to vote on it at all, let alone key other legislation to its full passage? Why not just call a vote on it now?
So why did Boehner make the change? I suspect it has more to do with saving his own face than attempting to solve the impasse. Boehner at this point needs to pass something to retain his leadership credibility in the caucus, even if it’s a waste of time. Unfortunately for Boehner, it gives Reid a perfect opening to table this the way he tabled CCB last week. That will force him to move his own bill, but he was going to get forced to do that anyway, thanks to the ticking clock and Obama’s demand earlier today to get something to his desk that he can sign. Even if the two bills go into conference committee — which is still possible — the BBA requirement won’t be coming out of it.
Update: Conn Carroll says this is a compromise, and one designed to get Democratic votes on the BBA:
1) The Boehner bill would raise the debt limit before the August 2nd deadline without the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment to be passed first. Yes, a Balanced Budget Amendment would have to be passed for the second debt limit hike sometime in the spring, but a completely new deal could be worked out before then.
2) The Boehner bill does not require that the Balanced Budget Amendment sent to the states to trigger the second traunch have a two-thirds super-majority requirment for raising taxes. This makes the BBA much more likely to win Democrat votes.
More likely than what? The proposed BBA caps federal spending at less than 20% of GDP. How many Democrats will go for that? You could count them on the fingers of one hand, and still have enough left for bowling. And if the idea of putting it as a requirement for a second tranche is to leave room for a completely different deal, why bother to include it at all? Just stick with the two-tranche approach and make it harder for Reid and Obama to say no.